At the unveiling of Renault's newest product for the Indian market in May this year, Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO, Renault announced the Kwid would be a game changer. The French carmaker has had in the past changed the game in the compact SUV segment with the Duster – a product that made the French carmaker a household name in the country. The stakes aren't quite the same with the Kwid though. This entry-level compact hatchback is pitted against one of the most successful and influential cars ever made in India, the Marui Suzuki Alto as well as the Hyundai Eon and Datsun Go.
The Kwid gives Renault India a lot of positive energy, a potential masterstroke to take them to the stated goal of five per cent market share in the country by 2017. The A-segment happens to be the most competitive end of the automotive market, and breaking through this segment isn't going to be easy. Renault might be able to produce the numbers, but customers in this segment are particularly concerned about the ownership experience. Will Renault be able to deliver?
The briefing we received from the company at the recently-organised media drive in Goa reveals a sound go-to-market strategy. But before we delve into the company's market strategy, let us review the product itself – the Kwid – and see if it has the right ingredients to up the game in the entry-level compact hatchback segment.
The KWID is Renault's first model to be built on the Common Module Family (CMF) platform – a modular strategy introduced by the Renault-Nissan Alliance to be able to develop and build different product for different size and segments. The Kwid falls under the CMF-A classification, the A representing the entry-level or sub-compact segment. Likewise, the Kwid bore an internal codename of BBA, with the B's representing the body type and platform respectively, while the A denotes that it's the first car on this platform.
The Kwid is claimed to be one of the only cars from a global manufacturer to be built from scratch on a new platform with local content of about 98 %. Gerard Detourbet, the father of the Kwid (as well as the Logan, Duster, and Lodgy), said no part in the Kwid has come from any other car in India – each and every component, even the nuts and bolts – have been newly developed for the Kwid. In the process, the engineers have been able to introduce tremendous amount of lightweighting in the vehicle, leading to an overall vehicle weight of just 669 kg!
The Kwid has been developed predominantly in India, with inputs from other Renault centres in France, Japan and Korea. Endurance and durability was tested in France, while Japan contributed to the electronics. Body equipment was evaluated in Korea, and Renault India the chassis and body testing beyond bulk of the vehicle's development. The design too was done at Renault's design studios in Mumbai and Chennai. In fact, Detourbet informed that the first sketch – even before the project went live – was done by a young engineer in the Mumbai studio in 2009.
One look at the Kwid and you know this is a product unlike any other in the segment. The design is SUV-inspired, with a tall stance and bulged-out exteriors that gives the Kwid a big car feel. The feeling of largeness isn't restricted to the exteriors alone. Inside the Kwid, space is similar to that of larger compact hatchbacks, with very impressive engineering visible all around. We shall discuss that in one of the following paragraphs.
The Kwid has many elements that grabs attention, and we have no doubts that it will make heads turn in appreciation, once on the road. The headlamps, coupled with the turn indicators, are big. The grille depicts a chain-link, and has a large Renault logo placed at the centre. The raised bonnet, 180 mm ground clearance and flared wheel arches further accentuate the Kwid's SUV look. The side profile carries forward the muscular design language from the front, and the rear too doesn't disappoint. In fact, it is the rear that gives the Kwid a smaller hatchback profile.
At a length of 3,679 mm, width of 1,579 mm and height of 1,478 mm, the Kwid stands taller, longer and wider than competition. The 13-inch wheels look small, but go well with the overall design of the car. At 300 l, the boot is bigger than even cars of a segment above.
Moving back to the interiors, space engineering is something that deserves a lot of appreciation. The front seats are very comfortable, and the rear seat is good for more-than-average-built Indians, with ample leg and knee room. The plastic used in the overall compartment is of decent quality for this segment, but for the glove box. That bit needs more attention as the glove box lid looked inferior and flimsy. Overall fit and finish of reasonable quality too, and should be acceptable to customers in the Rs 3-4 lakh bracket.
The highlight of the interiors is in the dashboard. The Kwid has got features that no other car in the segment offers, including a 7-inch multimedia system with satnav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. The touchscreen provides media options, telephony through Bluetooth and navigation. In addition, it has an on-board trip computer, a gear shift indicator and power windows in the front. We loved the clutter-free look of the dash, accentuated by the chrome-fitted centre console, which has the same touchscreen unit used in the Duster and Lodgy. There is a three-tiered glovebox, leaving no space for the company to fit in an airbag. A driver airbag is available though as an option. To offer the customer more personalised options, Renault is also offering 60 accessories for various tastes.
Renault has introduced a brand-new – SCe (Smart Control Efficiency) engine – developed specially for the Kwid. The 800 cc, three-cylinder, all-aluminium engine develops max output of 53 hp, and torque is rated at 72 Nm. The engine is mated to an all-new five-speed manual transmission as well. The power-to-weight ratio for the Kwid is rated at about 84 hp/ tonne. Power delivery is linear, and shouldn't trouble customers on sedate city drives. On the highway though, it tends to lose steam if you aren't engaging in short-gearing. The shift quality is decently smooth, but there is considerable NVH seeping into the cabin, especially in the lower gears. At steady cruise though, the hum settles down well.
Nonetheless, the Kwid delivers on what is the most important parameter in this segment – fuel efficiency. At 25.17 km/l, the Kwid delivers the highest fuel-efficiency for a petrol car in the country.
We loved the way Renault has set up the suspension of the Kwid. MacPherson struts at the front with a lower transverse link keep body roll under control, while the rear duty is done by a twist-beam suspension with coil springs. The vehicle rides very well on even roads, but takes in the potholes rather well. Although the rear suspension felt a little on the softer side, the overall handling of the car is decent. There is some body roll though, but that's evident only during some spirited driving, which may not be the case with most Kwid owners.
The steering is light, but vague at times. It offers good feedback mostly, but at high speeds, it needs assistance. Overall, compared to competition, the Kwid certainly is more stable.
In the Kwid, Renault India has been able to offer a package that ticks off almost all the right boxes. The entry-level customer can be a demanding one, but this hatchback has the potential to provide good all-round value to its owner. What goes in its favour include exterior and interior styling, good engine and transmission, a host of features that customers would love to own and flaunt.
The company also claims that the Kwid will be the cheapest car to maintain, thanks to the 98 % local content that it has fed into the car. It offers a 2 years/ 50,000 km warranty, which can be extended to 3 years/ 60,000 km or 4 years/ 80,000 km options. The company has announced the Kwid will get an automatic variant in the future, and has in its plans an AMT (automated manual transmission) variant as well.
We asked Gerard if he has a larger engine in mind for the Kwid. Not until a stage, where the customers or market dynamics demand it, he said. For now though, the company is busy expanding its network to ensure the Kwid is made available to larger sections of the Indian market at the earliest possible time. For the record, by the end of the year, Renault India would have set-up 205 outlets, increasing it to 280 in 2016. That's not a sizeable number compared to competition, but officials believe it's a good number to cater to current demand.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay